About Mongering, Hypocrisy, Reality and Consequences
I am a hypocrite. I admit it. I know the good I should do and all too often I fail to do it. I am also in your perspective religious. There! Perhaps I have alienated most readers and confirmed their worst stereotypes: I am unapologetic.
Actually I think hypocrisy is part of the human condition. Jesus wasn’t lacking in perception when advising we should take the log out of our own eye before trying to take the speck out of someone else’s.
About mongering, prostitution in Thailand etc, in my better moments I feel sad for all the participants. Doubtless, now many are truly outraged. Why do I make such provocative comments? From some kind of perspective of moral superiority? Not at all! I do not claim to be the worst, but I have offended my own conscience enough, and I am not going to offer some kind of rationalization to justify it.
I admit it. I love sex, I love the female form. I also love sweet cakes and desserts and when I eat too may they make me fat. Is it evil or is it damaging to enjoy sweet cakes and desserts? Surely not! But if I was to spend too many waking moments thinking about the next one, dreaming of it, looking at pictures of them, if I was to become obese or diabetic through overindulgence would it then be damaging? Of course!
So here is my position. I’m not in Thailand for the pussy! If you must, then I will admit possibly I am in Thailand for a pussy, but that would be demeaning of me and certainly demeaning of her and a decidedly reductionist view of the many things I enjoy in real relationship with a living, breathing, thinking person, and the complexity of other important life elements such as meaningful work.
And here is my assertion. The sex industry, as enthralling to us as it is, me included, is fundamentally damaging to all the parties involved, and I feel, not in my worst moments, but rather in my best, nothing but sadness about it. I am not going to begin with a defence of the girls involved but rather of how I perceive many, if not most of the customers. The prize, the essential difference claimed by I think the majority of Stickman readers is the girlfriend experience! There! The heart of it. You are not here simply for sexual satisfaction in the physical sense…you hunger for something deeper…something that has eluded you. You find in Thailand, in Soi Cowboy or Walking Street or Soi 8 or wherever, the illusion of the real intimacy that you hunger for…but it is ONLY an illusion. To make my last explicitly religious comment, this is what the theologian Karl Barth (who also said ALL RELIGION is idolatry!) calls idolatry: the substitution of something ultimately unreal for what is truly real. Idolatry short-changes us…because what it offers is easy, accessible, but ultimately unreal and so unsatisfying.
Relationships are bloody difficult! Any relationship. Was there a time when people understood this, and accepted that long term relationships involved some serious hard work? I don’t know, but when I look at the minority of my friends whose marriages have lasted, I am jealous! In almost every case they are happy people who have raised happy, well adjusted children. I wish I was among them but I am not.
You don’t care about relationships, just about sex? Well here is my next claim: the best sex I have ever had has not been in a one night stand with however gifted a courtesan, but with a woman who I love deeply, who loves me deeply and with whom that biblical phrase “naked and unashamed” has depth and poignancy that no one night stand – even at the Eden Club, can surpass.
Of course, too many men who wash up on Thailand’s shores disillusioned or lonely, or just plain cynical, will fall in love with …too often…an illusion. Here for the pussy?! Bullshit. THAT is the rationalization for the macho man, and rationalization it truly is. These men (and I have been one) earn variously our sympathy or our scorn, but at least they are still human, able, albeit misguidedly – even blindly, to risk themselves…to trust again. Too often with sad outcomes because their trust was so evidently misplaced…but I assert sadder still is the man who has lost the ability to trust…who is in his heart perennially angry with women, who is scarred perhaps beyond healing…and is blind to his condition.
About the women…it is too easy (and too stupid!) to play the great white rescuer than to be a real friend. I am with Stick, I doubt there is a single woman in the industry unscarred and undamaged by the choices she has made and the experiences that have followed. I can’t condone their choice, as numerous readers have already observed, there is the alternative road of hard work, and commensurately intact dignity: again I admire these people who chose the hard road…they are parents of some of my students. But neither can I condemn those who have taken what we so feebly view as the easy road…I empathise both because there have been times I took the easy road, when I judged the troubles of my human existence as adequate justification for what was quite frankly a bad choice, a self-damaging choice, a destructive choice with repercussions beyond my own narrow existence. Some of my students have absent parents…in Bangkok or Pattaya…perhaps not even for the sex industry but something ostensibly innocuous but don’t you dare tell me it is not damaging…And because it is not so easy. Turn the tables. Could you, night after night, sweet talk and have sex with fat women, ugly women, pitiful women, weak women, desperate women, selfish, self-obsessed women and remain unaffected, unhardened, undamaged in your ability to be truly self-giving and trusting which are surely necessary parts of real relationships?
I said it before, I love sex, I love the feminine form, I have a partner who in so many ways is wonderful…but I still experience desire for more, for different, for…. But the trap, it seems to me, is to imagine that sex is purely physical satisfaction. In our hearts we know this is not true…we cannot help but form some connection with the person, we extinguish it at the cost of ourselves, yet we indulge it in the wrong direction also at the cost of ourselves… we fall in love, or try to rescue….we are like moths to a naked flame. The girls mostly enter the industry at a young age, with all kinds of aspirations and illusions of their own. Does it damage them? How many aged bargirls whether ex-bar or still struggling on in the industry do you truly admire? Be honest! Mostly you despise them. Ugly used up hags. Cynical, hard bitches. Damaged goods!
If it’s such an honourable profession, why can’t you accept your dear one remaining in it? No, the defence of the industry is all bullshit, mine included. It will always be with us, but as much as I too enjoy the illusion, I will welcome the day when economic and educational progress reduces the supply … Meanwhile, hypocrite that I am, from time to time I will enjoy the occasional night at the bar, put the lid on my conscience and, when the pressure escapes, struggle with my imaginings of rescue… So write to me by all means if you must, but before you judge me, look hard in the mirror!
Bullseye! For me, you absolutely nailed it, acknowledging the damage that occurs but then admitting that even if we are aware of it, we just cannot help ourselves…